What's beneath DC?
July 30, 2006 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything below Washington, DC?

I mean other than the subway.

I tried to do a search which turned up Mount St. Sepulchre and its catacombs. Is there anything else? Preferably places that a civilian could access. I'd like to go exploring.
posted by moonshine to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If anyone would know, it would be the Giant at Hains Point.
posted by paulsc at 10:07 PM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking that there aren't likely to be any places other than the Metro tunnels that are civilian-accessible. Consider the security risks if there were.

Consider also that much of D.C. was built on swampland, so one would think there would be a limit to how much tunnel-digging could safely take place beneath it.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:09 PM on July 30, 2006

Swamps and big ol' rats, AFAIK.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:16 PM on July 30, 2006

There's probably all sorts of crazy government stuff going on down there, but I would imagine it's mostly classified.
posted by delmoi at 3:13 AM on July 31, 2006

How about the Congressional Subway System? Not open to the general public of course as it serves to connect the House and Senate office buildings to the Capitol, but it looks like visitors to the buildings can use it. Maybe a letter to your Congressman or Senators office could help get a tour.

There's also this site - DC's Underground, but not much on sewers, bunkers and other cool underground stuff.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 4:20 AM on July 31, 2006

There's a failed mall below Dupont Circle but I don't think you'd have any luck getting in it. From http://www.uer.ca/forum_showthread.asp?fid=3&threadid=23894

In 1993, Dupont Down Under Associates, Inc. (DDUA), contracted with the District of Columbia to develop District-owned space underneath Dupont Circle pursuant to a ten-year master lease agreement. Simon allegedly negotiated this master lease as the sole shareholder, officer, and director of DDUA. DDUA then entered into subleases with a number of retail food outlets, planning to line the Dupont Circle underground tunnels with food carts shaped like old trolley cars. DDUA allegedly failed, however, to make various improvements to the Dupont Circle underground space as required by its leases, and the project did not meet the expectations of either the city or the food court tenants.

In 1995, the tenants instituted a rent strike, and DDUA sued the tenants for breach of their leases. Several of the tenants sued DDUA and Simon for fraud and (as to DDUA alone) breach of their subleases and the master lease. The lawsuits were consolidated for trial. Shortly before the start of trial, the tenants were permitted to amend their complaint to add a claim that Simon was liable to the same extent as DDUA under an alter ego theory.

This link was on the same page but it seems pretty antiquated. I'd be very cautious about any illegal entry given the terrorism fears here in the District.
posted by phearlez at 12:20 PM on July 31, 2006



Urban Explorers
posted by mlis at 2:09 PM on July 31, 2006

I can't tell you much that hasn't already been listed here but, I can confirm a few things...

Underneath D.C. you can find:

The catacombs, as you mentioned, which are open to the public (I took a tour of them when I was in third grade.)

The Captiol Subway system, as was also previously mentioned, and that is open to the public and I'm pretty sure you don't even need a letter from your congressperson to see it-- you can just take a Capitol tour.

Dupont Down Under-- the failed mall which I can assure you is not open to the public although the Washington Post likes to send someone down there every once in a while just to make sure Washingtonians don't forget it.

Fall-out shelters in some of the older office buildings... but I couldn't tell you exactly which ones and I bet you couldn't get into them anyway.

The National Gallery of Art has an underground walk-way between the East and West wings with a really cool moving sidewalk-- which you can ride. Although everyone knows about that so its not exactly exciting...

Gonzaga prep school on North Capitol street has an old sunk-in gymnasium in the basement but its hardly worth seeing even if you did take the time to get permission...

Underground parking garages and cafeterias which you will find all over D.C.-- especially in the downtown area where the federal office buildings are. This would include the Senate Parking Garage which has a park over top of it with a lovely fountain. In fact that one's so discreet I bet most people don't know it's there until they realize that park is called Senate Parking Garage Park. (That's next to the Russell building on Constitution Avenue.)

A very old sewer system that you can't visit... But you can see old Aquaeducts above ground if you know where to look.

The Georgetown Park Mall on M street in Georgetown which is not entirely underground but... Well... There's a lot more of it underground than above ground.

The new Captiol Visitor Center which you cannot visit yet but will be able to very soon.

The metro-- which is not interesting in and of itself-- but it does include the third longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere which is underground and located at the Wheaton metro stop on the red line. Although... unless you want some good Peruvian chicken, there's not much else to see in Wheaton.
There is also one metro line which runs, not underground but underwater, and that is the Blue Line.

As far as bunkers go: as a federal government employee who works on Capitol Hill and was not there on 9/11 but has talked to a lot of people who were... There are no important bunkers or other secret government 'stuff' under D.C. I mean, we've now all seen where the important people go in an emergency and it ain't down a hole. No, they go to secret underground places elsewhere.

And that's about all I can think of right now. There are also a few major roads that go through tunnels but, that's not that interesting I'm sure. And besides, I'm sure you now know way more than you ever wanted to know about what's under D.C.
posted by emmatwofour at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2006

The crypts of the National Cathedral left a lasting impression on me as a child. They're pretty empty of tourists, most of the year, and great fun.
posted by wzcx at 10:55 AM on August 1, 2006

Arlington has pretty accessible rainwater drainage systems. Especially the tributaries to Rock Creek Park. One safe, neat spot is across Kirkwood from the Eckered, behind the pawn shop, at Kirkwood and Lee Highway. There's also a park here with some smaller tunnels.

Also, to add on to emmatwofour's post, the orange line also goes "underwater." When I was a kid I thought that meant we'd be traveling through the water, passing fish and whatnot. Nope. It just means the dirt they drilled through has water on top of it. But you do get to go through "Foggy Bottom," which always elicits snickers from schoolkids. And me.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:24 AM on August 4, 2006

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